Poultry flocks infected with the highly contagious avian virus across six central Alberta counties will have to be humanely destroyed, says the Canadian Foods Inspections Agency.
The agency confirmed on Tuesday the presence of the highly pathogenic virus H5N1 in six Alberta counties: Mountain View County, Ponoka County, Kneehill County, Paintearth County, Wetaskiwin County and Camrose County. The cases became known from April 6 to 11.
“Each infected premises has been placed under quarantine. The CFIA has begun an investigation and will be establishing movement control measures on other farms within that area,” said a spokesperson for the agency through an email.
An agency map shows some of the infected farms are between Didsbury and Olds, with a larger “Primary Control Zone” extending to cover both communities.
According to the Canadian Foods Inspections Agency (CFIA) on Saturday, a Primary Control Zone (PCZ) was established in Mountain View County, where highly pathogenic avian influenza has been identified. “All movement of domestic birds in and out of and through PCZ is strictly controlled and requires a permit from the CFIA.”
These restrictions also apply to poultry products and by-products, as well as material that has come into contact with domesticated birds.”
Additional PCZs in Alberta will be created as required, stated the CFIA.
Birds on infected farms that have been placed under quarantine will be humanely destroyed. The CFIA says there is no treatment for birds infected with avian influenza: “With high pathogenic avian influenza, birds will suffer and die if they are not humanely depopulated.”
Once the bird carcasses are disposal of, the farm will go through cleaning and disinfection. According to the CFIA, the quarantine order can be removed 21 days after the cleaning and disinfection process is completed and the farm can resume operations.
Under the Health of Animals Act, the CFIA may compensate owners only for animals and things ordered destroyed during disease response situations. CFIA may compensate producers for poultry ordered destroyed as well as contaminated feed or animal products, disposal costs, including transportation of animals, and for cleaning and disinfecting the equipment used for the disposal.
The farmers will receive fair market value for things ordered destroyed.
Scientific evidence indicates that the avian influenza (AI) virus circulates naturally in wild birds, and is spread through migratory birds. It’s also spread by direct contact with live diseased poultry or surfaces and objects contaminated by their feces.
Poultry owners are being told to take the following precautions: Prevent wild birds from coming in contact with poultry, their food and water; maintain strict control over access to poultry houses, limiting access to only those who must be there; require all persons who enter a site where poultry are held to disinfect their footwear, wash their hands and wear clean clothing; make sure that only disinfected equipment is taken into poultry houses; avoid having bird feeders and duck ponds close to poultry barns because they attract wild birds.
The farmers are also urged to maintain high sanitation standards.
CFIA says there is no evidence that poultry meat or eggs could transmit the AI virus to humans. But poultry products from the locations under investigation are not permitted to enter the food chain.
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development Nate Horner said Tuesday the province is monitoring the situation and it’s an incredibly difficult time for affected producers.
“Albertans can be assured there is no risk to food safety and that the risk to human health is extremely low,” said Horner in a release.
“The quick discovery of these cases is a testament to the effectiveness of our disease surveillance and response system and the commitment of our poultry producers.”
Earlier this week, Agriculture and Agi-Food Canada said the food industry is making adjustments to maintain poultry and egg supplies in face of the large outbreak of avian flu. It has been an unprecedented year for it, with strains of H5N1 detected in Newfoundland, Labrador, Nova Scotia and Alberta since late 2021.
So far about 260,000 birds were euthanized or killed by the virus in Canada. More than half of these — 166,000, were in Alberta and 84,000 were in Ontario.